This article has been previously published as a part of book Around Ephesus and Kusadasi: TAN Travel Guide by Izabela Miszczak
Selçuk is a charming town located near Kuşadası, in the central part of the Aegean coast. Crowds of tourists flock here to see one of the greatest archeological sites in Turkey - the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus. However, few adventurers stop here for a longer time. Because of this, the town has retained its relaxed lifestyle. In the morning farmers still pass the town center in their tractors, taking their wives to work in the fields.
Selçuk history dates back to the 6th century AD when the settlers moved to the vicinity of the Basilica of St. John. However, the history of settlement in Selcuk area is much older. It is inextricably linked to the ancient city of Ephesus and the cult of the goddess Artemis.
Archeological work carried out on Ayasoluk Hill showed that it was settled in the early Bronze Age (3000-2000 BC) and in the middle Bronze Age (2000-1500 BC). Pottery fragments also indicate settlements from the Mycenaean, Geometric, and Archaic (1400-560 BC) periods. In the times of the Greek colonization, the hill was known as Apasas.
The oldest name of the city, from the Byzantine period, was Ayios Theologos, because of St. John, who lived in this area and was buried on Ayasoluk Hill. In Ottoman times, the town was known as Ayasoluk (tr. Ayasluğ), and the name Selçuk has been used since 1914. The modern name commemorates the Seljuk Turks that began to invade this area from the 12th century AD
Until 1954, Selçuk was administratively a part of Kuşadası district, and in the years 1954-1957 it belonged to Torbalı district. Selçuk became a separate district only in 1957.
Selçuk and its surroundings are rich in interesting, historical places The biggest attraction is, of course, the ruined city of Ephesus, located about 3 kilometers from the town center.
If you already find yourself in the vicinity of Ephesus, find the Cave of the Seven Sleepers (tr. Yedi Uyuyanlar), located nearby. It is a Byzantine necropolis where dozens of rock-cut tombs can be seen. The cave is connected to a legend of young, persecuted the Christians of Ephesus.
On the way to Ephesus make a little detour and stop at the remains of Artemision - a huge temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis. In ancient times, Artemision was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. However, today little remains from the period of the splendor of this structure. It is hard to believe that this was once the building larger than the Parthenon in Athens. The cult of the mother goddess, Artemis, also called Cybele, was the main engine of growth in Ephesus and attracted crowds of pilgrims to the area.
The history of Artemision is also related to Saint Paul, who lived for some time in Ephesus. During his stay, he came into conflict with a local goldsmith. The controversy arose from silver models of Artemision, sold to the pilgrims. This practice was against Christian teachings. Saint Paul could have been tried and killed, because of the greed of local merchants. Soon afterward the apostle left Ephesus.
The ruins of Artemision were used for the construction of the basilica of St. John. Some of the building materials were even used during the erection of the Church of the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) in Constantinople.
Saint John also visited the Ephesus. He came with Mary - the mother of Jesus, as he had promised to take care of her. She reportedly ended her life there. The house in which she lived (called Meryemana by the Turks), was situated on the Hill of Nightingales (tr. Bülbüldağı), located about 8 kilometers from Ephesus. Today, it is a sanctuary that is visited both by the faithful and curious tourists. If you're planning to visit this place, remember to wear appropriate clothes. Unfortunately, there is no public transport to the place, so you have to take into account the expense for a taxi or a long and steep climb uphill.
İsa Bey Mosque is an interesting monument of Muslim architecture. It was built in 1375 and represents the transitional period of Anatolian architecture - post-Seljuk, but pre-Ottoman. The mosque is open to visitors outside the hours of prayers. Another historic mosque in Selçuk is Ishak Bey Camii. It was also built in the 14th century, during the reign of a local Aydınoğulları dynasty. The building, restored in 2005-2006, is a structure where the dome rests on an octagonal base, with a free-standing minaret.
In the center of Selçuk, one can also see some old Turkish tombs, Ottoman traditional houses and the remains of an aqueduct, favorite nesting place for storks. This massive structure, built by the Romans and restored in the Byzantine period, runs parallel to İnönü Caddesi, on the west side of the town. Currently, it is a popular place for romantic walks and meetings in restaurants and cafes.
The highlight of the trip to Selçuk should be a visit to Ephesus Museum, located in the town center. The second museum in the area is Çetin Museum, nearby the roundabout by Pamucak Beach. Its exhibitions are devoted to ethnography and include a collection of dolls dressed in folk costumes and an exhibition dedicated to local traditional dances. In the center of Selçuk, on Anton Kallinger Caddesi, operates Crisler Library, created by the eminent American researcher of that name. It boasts a vast collection of books devoted to Ephesus as well as ancient, biblical and Islamic history.
Nearby Selçuk there is a picturesque Şirince, famous for its fruit wines. On the southern side of the town, on D550 route to Aydın, there is Çamlık Tren Müzesi i.e. Railway Museum. It is the largest of its kind in Turkey and one of the largest in Europe. There are 33 steam locomotives and several passenger cars, including a favorite private car of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The museum is open daily, from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm (in winter to 5:00 pm). The admission ticket costs 5 TL.
In addition to historic attractions, visitors in Selçuk can enjoy a range of cultural festivals and sports events, including famous camel wrestling and traditional oil wrestling.
Currently, Selçuk has only about 25 thousand inhabitants, but it can offer travelers good tourist infrastructure. There are restaurants, hotels and good transport links to the rest of the country.
Selçuk has several commendable restaurants, offering traditional Turkish cuisine at reasonable prices. There are also several bars and places serving alcoholic beverages in town. They are concentrated along Kallinger and Siegburg streets. However, the nightlife is much more interesting in Kuşadası.
In Selçuk, large grocery bazaar is held every Saturday. You can then stock up on fresh vegetables, fruit, and cheeses. In the vicinity of the railway station, the similar bazaar is held on Wednesdays.
The tourist information office is located on Agora Street No: 35, and is open from Monday to Friday, from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Banks, ATMs, and exchange offices are situated along Cengiz Topel and Namık Kemal streets.
By coach: there are direct coaches to Selçuk from Bursa, Istanbul, and Izmir, and it is possible to many other cities by changing the coaches in Aydın.
By minibus: regular minibuses connect Selçuk with Izmir, Kuşadası, and Pamucak.
By train: there are seven trains daily to Selçuk from Izmir. The train leaves from Basmane station and stops near Adnan Menderes airport. The journey lasts 1.5 hours, and the train continues to Denizli.
By car: the main route near Selçuk is İzmir-Aydın motorway. To get to Selçuk leave it in Belevi and drive to the west for 12 km. Itis also possible to get to Selçuk from the harbor town of Kuşadası, by taking D515 route. The distance is just 20 km.
Selçuk has a well-developed tourist base, serving the visitors coming here to see the ruins of Ephesus. The choice B&Bs is impressive, and the prices - affordable. However, travelers seeking luxury options should stay in nearby Kuşadası.
The most frequently recommended B&Bs in Selçuk are:
- Jimmy's Place (tel. 0 90 232 892 1982) - in the neighborhood of Atatürk Mahellesi, on 1016 Street No: 19. The pension is animal-friendly with no additional charges for dogs and cats. The price of a double room with breakfast in high season is 30 euros.
- Akay Hotel (tel. 0 90 232 892 3172) - also in Atatürk Mahellesi, on 1054 Street (near İsa Bey Mosque). Prices of double rooms start from 20 euros.
- Homeros Pension & Guesthouse (tel. 0 90 232 892 3995) - in the same neighborhood, on 1048 Street No: 3. The guesthouse has an observation terrace, a restaurant that prepares home-cooked meals, and a bar. The owners also run bicycle rental. Double rooms with breakfast cost 45 euros.
- Atilla's Getaway (tel. 0 90 232 892 3847) - about 3 km to the south of the town center, near Acarlar Koyu village, on D550 road. This guest house also has a swimming pool, and the owner can arrange a variety of entertainment options, including horseback riding and skydiving. The guest house offers dorms beds for 20 euros, double rooms with shared bathrooms for a similar price, double rooms with private bathrooms for 25 euros and a campsite for 12 euros. In all cases, the prices include breakfast and dinner.
- Bella (tel. 0 90 232 892 3944) - on Saint Jean Street No: 7. The rooms are furnished in Ottoman style, and there is a rooftop terrace with a restaurant. Double rooms with breakfast cost from 40 euros.
Slightly higher prices should be expected in the case of hotels that operate in Selçuk. These are the venues highly rated by the visitors:
- Amazon Petite Palace (tel. 0 90 232 892 3231) - in the neighborhood of Atatürk Mahellesi, on 1054 Street No: 33. Double rooms with breakfast cost, depending on their standard, from 45 to 80 euros.
- Ephesus Suites Hotel (tel. 0 90 232 892 6312) - in İsabey District, on Anton Kallinger Street, just 250 meters from the ruins of Artemision. Double rooms with breakfast cost 80 euros and a spacious apartment - 90 euros.
Most hotels and B&Bs in Selcuk offer meals for an additional fee and laundry services, as well as transportation to the most interesting tourist attractions.
Additionally, there is a campsite in Selçuk. Garden Camping (tel. 0 90 232 892 6165) is situated just off the town center, in İsabey District, on 2040 Street. It has its own restaurant and a swimming pool. Nearby Selçuk, on Pamucak Beach, there is the second campsite, known as Dereli Camping.